CYNA Rodriguez hit a late birdie to fire a three-under 69 at a rain-drenched The Country Club then watched fellow amateur Miya Legaspi fumble with a bogey on No. 16 to grab a one stroke lead in the first round of the ICTSI Ladies Philippine Golf Tour on Wednesday in Canlubang, Laguna.
The 21-year-old Rodriguez sank a five-foot birdie putt on No. 17 highlighting a solid back nine to take control as amateurs upstaged the compact pro field.
Despite the playing conditions, with practically no wind and most pins placed in front for easy targets, only four broke par while one turned in an even-par round as majority of the starting field struggled on soggy fairways and poor form.
“The course was so easy to play because there was no wind the whole morning,” said Rodriguez, who won the Philippine Ladies Open crown in 2010 at Southwoods. “But it became a little tougher when it rained as the ball hardly rolled.”
Legaspi, 14, appeared in control at three-under through 10 holes. But the recent winner in the Montecillo Cup made two bogeys against a birdie in a four-hole stretch from No. 13, settling for a 70 and in a tie with Jayvie Agojo, who emerged the top pro in the opener of the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI.
Agojo, actually surged ahead early as she got to four under through 10 holes, but the 2005 Philippine Ladies Open winner and former Hong Kong Amateurs champion bogeyed Nos.12 and 15 to yield the lead.
“The pins were not as tough today. Most are on the front side of the green so I expected scores to be really good,” said Agojo, who made four birdies inside seven feet but failed to rescue a par from the bunker on the 12th and missed the green on the 15th.
Anya Tanpinco bucked a long layoff and shot a 71 on five birdies against four bogeys as the former Southern Ladies Open champion grabbed solo fourth.
Dottie Ardina shook off a jittery start of four bogeys in the first six holes as she fought back with two birdies and an eagle for a 72 to put herself in the early mix of contenders for the top prize of P100,000 from the P500,000 pot in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“It was a bad start – errant drives and missed greens. But I stayed focused and hit those birdies and an eagle,” said Ardina, who set up a brilliant 5-wood second shot from 200 yards to within five feet on the par-5 No. 15.
“I actually had birdies chances in the last four holes but missed them all inside 12 feet,” said Ardina, who won three titles this year in the run-up to her pro debut.
The amateurs actually dominated first round action with Princess Superal carding a 73 for sixth, 12-year-old Sam Bruce and Harmie Constantino turning in identical 74s, and Daniella Uy and Pauline Del Rosario shooting 75s to join pros Eva Miñoza, Lovelynn Guioguo and Sarah Ababa. Sofia Chabon and Marvi Monsalve, another pair of amateurs, each made a 76 to tie Jan Punzalan.
Heidi Chua, another former Philippine Ladies Open champion who turned pro in 2004 but last saw action two years ago, groped for form with a 78, the same output by Reb Bareng and Tracy Que, who showed up with three-time Asian Tour leg winner and former Philippine Open champion Angelo, who took a break from the Asian Tour to caddie for his wife.
“I survived,” said Chua when asked of her thoughts on her first pro tournament in two years. “I’m happy to have finished this round and tomorrow (Thursday), I think I will settle down.”
Three-time Philippine Ladies Open winner Mary Grace Estuesta also hopes to recover from a disastrous start of 12-over 80 marred by nine bogeys and one double-bogey with only a birdie to show.